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GTR

GTR: 2CD Deluxe Expanded Edition

Review by Gary Hill

I remember when I got this album originally, I was unimpressed with it. I think part of that was expectations. I mean, when you consider that the group featured both Steve Hackett (of Genesis fame) and Steve Howe (of Yes), I expected some progressive rock masterpiece. This is closer to something like Asia, though. It’s more AOR prog than serious prog. It’s also very good. I really should have given it more of a chance than I did. I really love this album. This particular version includes quite a bit of extra material, too. The second disc, in particular, is great. It is a live set from the band that includes music from the disc, a new song not included, solo pieces from both guitarists and a song from each of their other bands. It would be worth having as a separate album, so to get it here as a bonus is exceptional.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2015  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1

    
When the Heart Rules the Mind

I remember not really liking this song much when it first arrived. Time has been kind. It sounds better today. There are some trademark Steve Howe guitar bits. Put that in the scope of a more straightahead rocking Asia and you’ll have a good idea of what this is like. It’s good tune that holds up well all these years later. The mellow mid-track movement is more of a proggy thing.

The Hunter
This is more of a power anthem type piece. Parts of it call to mind The Yes album, but this doesn’t work as well as that. Still, it’s pretty good. When it gets powered up it’s more like 80s music. I guess I’d describe this as “Yes meets Survivor.” It feels more dated than the opener does.  The instrumental section at the end is proggy and cool.
Here I Wait
The opening to this sounds like Asia – and this time I mean the continent, not the band. They work out from there into a fast paced jam that’s very proggy. If the last sound made me think of Survivor, this one brings Jefferson Starship to mind for me. The chorus is more like Survivor, though. Still, it has its proggy elements and the bridge is very prog-like.
Sketches in the Sun
This Steve Howe solo is intricate and quite pretty. It has a definite classical element, but is also very purely and recognizable as Steve Howe’s form of rock guitar.
Jekyll and Hyde
Although still AOR in style, this is a much proggier tune. The vocal performance is more pure rock on the verses, but proggier on the choruses. This is actually not one of the obvious standouts, but one of the strongest tunes here. There are definite hints of Yes and Asia in the mix here. The instrumental section mid-track is a very modern progressive rock masterpiece in a lot of ways. There is some great give and take between the guitarists.
You Can Still Get Through
Here’s another that’s definitely progressive rock. This is arguably one of the most prog songs here. It’s also a high energy powerhouse with a cool vocal arrangement and some great changes. If they had focused more on this side of the band, these guys would have been much more popular with prog fans. There is a cool little Latin fusion thing at the end.
Reach Out (Never Say No)

This rocks out harder. It’s a lot more mainstream and 80s textured. That said, there are trademark Steve Howeisms in the guitar work. The instrumental section is far more purely progressive rock oriented. It’s also rather surprising in some good ways.

Toe the Line

The opening section of this is based on intricate acoustic guitar provided by Steve Howe. The cut works out from there into more rocking musical territory. This is actually quite a proggy piece, too.

Hackett to Bits

Steve Hackett’s solo piece is a full band treatment. It shows both mellower and scorching rocking sounds. This is a real powerhouse piece and does have some hints of Genesis music in the mix. It’s one of the more purely prog rock pieces here, too.  It’s one of my favorites.

Imagining

This comes in with a killer prog jam that almost feels like a continuation of the previous piece. It becomes a more AOR based prog jam from there. This is another standout track. It’s quite a powerhouse with a lot of great instrumental moments, shifts and changes.

Bonus Tracks

   

The Hunter (Special GTR Mix)
This is definitely a different take on the song. There are some very Yes-like guitar moments, but it still manages to feel like Survivor in some ways.
When the Heart Rules the Mind (Single Version)

Here, as the title suggests, we get the single version of the lead-off track.

The Hunter (Single Version)
Finally, we get the single version of “The Hunter.”
Disc 2
     
Jekyll and Hyde

I like the blend of pop and prog here and they put in a solid live performance.

Here I Wait

This live rendition works pretty well. I’m just not that enamored with the bulk of the song.

Prizefighters
Here’s a GTR song that isn’t on the studio album. That makes this set worth having on the strength of this along. I love the balance of mellower proggy stuff and harder rocking, more anthemic music here. This is as strong as just about anything on the studio album. It really makes me wish there had been a second studio album from these guys.
Imagining
One of my favorite tracks from the studio album, if anything this even stronger live. The stage mix feels a little lackluster at times, but the song really rips.
Hackett to Bits
As intense as this was in the studio rendition, this blows the whole thing away. It’s a real powerhouse.
Spectral Mornings
This cut from Steve Hackett’s solo career gets a great live telling here. It’s part progressive rock and part fusion. There are a lot of shifts, changes and contrasts, but it never feels disconnected.
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Here we get a Genesis song. I like this version quite a bit. It is a bit stripped from the Genesis version, but it works quite well.
Sketches in the Sun
It is time for the Steve Howe solo piece from the album, and it’s the classy acoustic piece one would expect.
Pennants
Here we get a cool band performance of a Steve Howe solo album goodie. I’ve always loved this number, and this rendition is great.
Roundabout
Now they turn their attention to one of Yes’ best known songs. Although there’s a little feedback on this, I really think this is a great live rendition. It’s energetic, fun and feels quite a lot like a number of Yes takes I’ve heard.
The Hunter
I have to say that I prefer this live version to the studio one. It’s not a big change, but seems to work better.
You Can Still Get Through
I like this cut quite a bit, and this live version does it justice. The instrumental section is particularly meaty.
Reach Out (Never Say No)
Although not one of my favorites from this band, this live take seems to work pretty well, really. The instrumental section is smoking hot, too.
When the Heart Rules the Mind
No big surprises, this is a solid live telling of the song. The acapella section with audience singalong seems a bit overdone to me, but who can complain? There is a weird little overdubbed (I think?) vocal bit in the closing section that’s gimmicky.
 
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